January : Waterhouse’s Boreas (part two)

But remember how I called him radical? Find the first part of this post HERE.


 Ovid, Waterhouse’s most likely source material, tells. He tells who Orithyia’s related to, what her sons do; he tells of Boreas’ anger, he tells of Boreas’ actions—it is all telling, it is all what happens to her. Victorians did a lot of telling themselves; deciding the proper sphere of women, telling them the ideal they ought to live up to. 

Waterhouse, however, does no telling at all. He eschews the plot that Ovid, and most other treaters of this tale, focus on. The story is cast aside for the moment Waterhouse depicts. 

The girl is aligned with the nature around her. The colors of her clothes echo those around her, she like the nature around her is buffeted by the wind. The deep, soulful colors and textures connect her to her environment; the viewer’s eyes are drawn to her face, framed by her arm, by the billow of her mantle. Her face, her expression, and the daffodil in her ear.

In such a dark, deep color palette, the yellow is surprising. Daffodils are spring, a season far removed from the setting of the painting. Spring is rebirth, and change, and generally, in the language of flowers, that is just what the daffodil symbolizes. 

The Metamorphoses is all about rebirth. Characters meet life anew in changed forms, with their life situations changed drastically—and often tragically—along with it. As Peter Trippi puts it, in his book J. W. Waterhouse

“it was Ovid’s Metamorphoses to which he [Waterhouse] returned in every phase of his career, celebrating physical transformations as emblems of the passage from suffering to acceptance, from death to eternal life”. 

The point? 

In his portrayal of this girl, Waterhouse accepts the unknown. He does not tell us what is happening to her, how she relates to other aspects of the story. He does not tell anything about her, as his time could be so wont to do. Instead, Waterhouse accepts the silence of the moment, focusing in on the girl’s mysterious expression, an expression showing deepness, deep as the colors she wears, as the circles throughout the painting. The daffodil he places behind her ear suggests her own possibilities for transformation, for metamorphosis, subtly transcending the views of his society and time to create a gorgeous exploration of the mystical feminine. 

What do you think about all this? Are you a hardcore Waterhouse fan, hater, or new initiate? Comment below!

January : Marina Bondas, her Life and Work

(picture from Bondas’ Facebook page)


Having seen many ‘19s in his days, The Snottor remains undaunted by this one. Looking back he would say that this ’19 is certainly less glamorous than last century’s, and certainly less tense than the century’s before that.

As we approach the dark-night-of-the-soul month of February, and are firmly in the whole chilly, sniffly, and dim post-holiday season before Spring, The Snottor finds that some good inspiration is in high order. 

About this Artist:

For those further interested, a fabulous article has been written about Bondas, available HERE.

The Phlox in particular finds Marina Bondas’ life and work deeply inspiring; Bondas is a great artist in her own right, a conservatory-trained violinist–but she has done quite a bit more with her art than just make it.

Marina Bondas was born in Kiev, before moving to Germany with her family as a child; the civil unrest and war in Ukraine ironically has helped her reconnect to her mother country, where she now serves and gives freely of herself to connect with her people.

(from Bondas’ Facebook page)

In a war-torn region, there is much that a brave volunteer, worker or citizen might be called to do, and art is low on the list. There is always need in any war or disaster for health providers, people to staff refugee centers, care for orphans and trauma victims, etc. 

Bondas, however, has chosen a different route.

She returns to her homeland, where she performs in refugee centers, private homes, and often for ragtag groups of ordinary civilians she meets along the way. She shares music with people accompanied by the sounds of shelling outside.

Bondas is, in The Snottor’s opinion, the greatest artist alive. War is perhaps one of the most devastating phenomenons of being human; peace is disrupted, safety and predictability are swept away. Loved ones and the future you saw for yourself are lost, not by the forces of the world but to the brutality of other human beings. Art is often the last thing on anyone’s minds.

But art can be one of the greatest tools for humanity; she bravely brings it into the lives of people who need it most, giving them all, and herself, something other than war, something beyond devastation and uncertainty.

(from Bondas’ Facebook page)

She also runs a summer camp in Ukraine to share music with children traumatized by the war many of them no nothing other than. She depends on donations every year to put it on; if you’re at all interested, as The Snottor is (he fishes his coach wildly for spare change), the Phlox has obligingly provided information (from Bondas’ Facebook page) below:

Marina Bondas

September 21, 2018 ·

Dear friends, as my facebook reveals – I have birthday tomorrow. It means a “free wish”.

… What can I wish on such day? I have already everything to feel happy and enjoy the life.

There is only one thing – my baby, which already grew big and united many people to a family. And i want this baby to grow bigger – there is still much to grow!

So… if you want to make me a present, feel free to donate for our project #MUSIK_RETTET.

My biggest wish and a biggest present would be to arrange another summer camps next summer, and to develop our projects in Ukraine.


Ukraine Hilfe Berlin

IBAN: DE68 8306 5408 0104 872215



PayPal: ukraine.hilfe@gmail.com

If you’re still not in love with the project, just watch the videos here:


More info here: www.heartforukraine.com

Facebook: Heart for Ukraine

January : Waterhouse’s Boreas (part one)

“it was Ovid’s Metamorphoses to which he [Waterhouse] returned in every phase of his career, celebrating physical transformations as emblems of the passage from suffering to acceptance, from death to eternal life” (Peter Trippi, from his book J. W. Waterhouse)

John William Waterhouse is perhaps best known for his paintings of women, particularly in Classical and Medieval settings, retelling classic tales. He often retold stories from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, the Ancient Roman Epic about magical physical changes. Ovid’s stories tend to focus on the chaos in the transformations, the fragility of life and the status quo of anyone’s experience, and the randomness of suffering. 

One of the hundreds of short tales winding throughout the Metamorphoses is that of “Boreas and Orithyia”. Ovid’s telling of this tale, most likely Waterhouse’s source material, corresponds to the purpose: it is a short transition piece to tie the previous story to the next section, in order to retain his goal of all the smaller stories in his work being connected. Ovid tells the thread matter-of-factly; Boreas, the North Wind, desires to marry the mortal Orithyia, but her father, having a grudge against Northerners (which is how it connects to the previous story, in which a Northerner harms Orithyia’s father’s family), forbids it. Boreas resorts to his customary violence and carries Orithyia off; he forces her to become his wife, and their children (who have wings—the Boreads) join Jason and the Argonauts, tying into the next part of the saga.

Orithyia is never focused on for herself. It is a highly technical story.

But now’s where we get to the actual painting: Waterhouse retells the story, painting a girl being buffeted by the wind. It is not strictly identifiable with the original tale at all, and the only reason we know what Waterhouse is retelling is by the title, Boreas

It is a completely different composition than Ovid’s, and certainly different from many of the other artistic retellings of the story, all of which depict the moment of abduction. No, Waterhouse’s take is so different as to be unrecognizable from the original plot—not only a different take, I would say, but a radical one.

John William Waterhouse is not usually someone tagged with that appellation, “radical”. To many he is a stuffy old Victorian Gentleman, who, beginning with his own lifetime, often found himself out of fashion and certainly is today. Recently, his painting Hylas and the Nymphs was temporarily taken down to invite museum-goers to participate in a discussion on the portrayal of women’s bodies in art, a good illustration of the negative way some people perceive his portrayals of women—as erotic objects to be looked at.

Hylas and the Nymphs, by J. W. Waterhouse

At first glance, Waterhouse’s painting seems completely in-step with his time. Women in the Victorian Era had limited rights and were idealized, especially idealized for being the center of the home and sexually pure. Women were expected to be modest, and were not encouraged to act in the outside world. 

The girl in Waterhouse’s painting is similarly modestly clad; she is beautiful and feminine, she is highly idealized. It is easy to look at this—and many of Waterhouse’s paintings—and write them off as highly aesthetic erotic portraits of the female body unrealistic to the full experience of being a woman. It is easy to look at him and his work and feel no connection between the idealized, Victorian females he portrays and the real woman you might be or know. 

But remember how I called him radical?

(tune in next time for the second part of this post!)